Welcome to my homepage!  I’ve developed this website to share information about my professional and personal background, my current research interests and projects, and other activities I’m engaged in.  I’m a professor of sign language, linguistics, and interpretation at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  I’ve worked as an interpreter, teacher, and researcher in the field of Sign Language/Deaf Studies for the past three decades. I learned sign language from a neighbor during childhood; then, honed my sign language skills as a camp counselor during high school and as a houseparent at the Texas School for the Deaf during college. 

I began my current career trajectory working as a professional sign language interpreter in 1975, and commenced my university teaching career in 1983 at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. There, I taught in the Master's Degree Program in Interpretation in the Department of Linguistics and Interpreting until 1990. I have served on the faculties of the Sign Language/Deaf Studies program in the College of Education at the University of Arizona (1990 – 1994) and the Sign Language Interpretation Program at Miami-Dade College (1994 – 2000). In addition to extensive fieldwork and research, I have developed and taught undergraduate and graduate coursework in Education of the Deaf, Sign Language/Deaf Studies, Linguistics, and Interpretation.

My research agenda is two-fold:  the linguistic study of signed languages; and, research of interpretation and translation processes.  For the past two decades, I’ve been studying the historical and contemporary uses of sign language among American Indian groups.  I’ve published over thirty research articles and book chapters, and presented internationally on a variety of topics related to sign language linguistics and interpretation.  Most recently, I authored the book Hand Talk: Sign Language among American Indian Nations, published by Cambridge University Press (2010).      

Personal background and interests:  I was born and raised in the New Orleans area on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.  Both maternal and paternal sides of my family have lived in this geographic area since the early 1800s. Though I spent a lot of time in the French Quarter growing up, the greater New Orleans area encompasses seven parishes (the Louisiana equivalent of other states' counties).  We’re from Tangipahoa and St. Tammany parishes on Lake Pontchartrain, the second-largest saltwater lake in the US, after the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  My home town is Ponchatoula, Louisiana – where my mother and other family members still reside on Davis Drive, as did my grandparents before them.  It’s easier and less confusing to say I’m from the New Orleans area, than to say I’m from Ponchatoula.  By the way, Ponchatoula is recognized as “The Strawberry Capitol” of the world (also Louisiana’s state fruit).  Each year in April, our home town hosts the annual Strawberry Festival with over 250,000 visitors – the largest weekend festival in the state.  I was raised on a strawberry farm, raking pine tree straw to place around the roots of the strawberry plants, picking the fruit, and gobbling up the berries.  One could say – strawberry fields forever!   

After high school, I attended the University of Texas and lived in Austin until 1980, and then went to grad school at Gallaudet University where I earned an MA in linguistics in 1984. I earned a PhD in linguistics at the University of New Mexico in 1990, did a post-doc at the University of Arizona, and then lived in Miami for 10 years.  I joined the faculty of the University of Tennessee in 2000.

Now, I'm very happily living in the Great Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee. I love to travel around the US and the world – and frequently visit two of my favorite cities – Washington, DC and New Orleans. My work and travels have taken me to every continent except Antarctica and Australia—though I have been to New Zealand (is that a continent)?   In testimony of my wanderlust, I’ve visited every country in Europe, every state in Mexico, and every state in the US except Alaska and Hawaii.  No plans to visit Antarctica anytime soon, but I still have quite a few places of my “bucket list” to visit.  My home in the Great Smokies is situated in a place called Happy Valley – and I’m happy having “stay-cations” right here where I am now!  When not travelling and spending time with friends and family, I enjoy hiking and swimming in lakes, rivers, oceans, and even man-made pools.  When I’m not conducting historical, anthropology, and sign language linguistic research, I enjoy doing genealogical research.  My other passions include Cajun and southern cooking, sharing home cooked meals with friends, reading, doing yoga, and attending meditation retreats – in silence.    


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